Car Accidents

Car Accident Claims Based on Unplowed Roadways

Despite the fact that most auto accidents are caused by a negligent driver, there are many other causes of accidents that are just as common. Poor road conditions and weather conditions are frequent causes of auto accidents. Examples of dangerous road conditions include potholes, uneven expansion joints, and debris on the roadway.  A deep hole in the middle of a roadway can cause serious auto accidents, especially on interstates. Weather conditions can also cause accidents, including winter weather, such as snow and ice. If uncleared snow or unsalted roads cause an accident, you may be able to bring a claim against the state or municipal government. Let our Joplin car accident attorney explain how these claims work. Dangerous road conditions While driver error is a major cause of auto accidents, there are other factors that play a substantial role in causing auto accidents, as well. Roadway defects and engineering and design problems attribute to auto accidents as well. Furthermore, many hazardous road conditions can make, what would have been a minor crash, a much more serious event. Failure to properly maintain roadways is another common cause. Proving a theory of liability The simple fact that the other person was driving the car that hit yours, doesn’t automatically make that person at-fault for the resulting auto accident.  In some situations, the other driver will try to shift some, if not all, of the blame on you.  For example, there are defenses known as contributory negligence of assumption of risk, which may create a real issue of liability in your case.  If those defenses are raised, the resolution of your case may be further delayed.  It is important to have as much evidence as you can to support your theory of liability, including witness testimony, if possible. Who is responsible for clearing icy or snowy roads? One of the key elements to proving a car accident claim is determining who is at fault, which means establishing all of the parties that are related to or involved in the accident. When several vehicles are involved, then the negligence of any of those drivers may be an issue. However, if someone slides or skids on the roadway because of weather conditions have made the roadway dangerous, the government entity responsible for that roadway may be to blame. Government responsibility for interstates and highways Responsibility for dangerous conditions on public roadways will potentially lie with the government that maintains those roadways. Which government agency depends on where the road is located. Interstates are typically maintained by the state where that section of the interstate is located. This means if you are injured in a car accident on I-29 or I-44 in Missouri, for instance, the Missouri Department of Transportation would be responsible if it failing to clear snow or ice from the road or lay down salt. On the other hand, within a city or town, the roadways are maintained by the city or municipality where they are located. County roads are maintained by counties. Determining the appropriate entity to file a claim against, the entity that should have plowed the road,  is something a Joplin car accident attorney can help you figure out. Claims against the state require administrative action first As with nearly legal claims against a governmental entity, a negligence claim against the state Department of Transportation requires the claimants file an administrative claim first before a lawsuit can be filed in court.  This is known as exhausting administrative remedies.  If this step is not taken before a lawsuit is filed, the court is likely to dismiss the claim. The reason for exhausting administrative remedies The purpose of the administrative remedies requirement is to minimize the burden on courts by possibly resolving some disputes within the appropriate administrative agency.  The agency will typically require that the claimant file a petition and attend a hearing where evidence of the claim is submitted to the agency officials.  If necessary, an appeal can also be filed with the agency, if the claimant is not satisfied with the decision. Is the exhaustion of administrative remedies always required? There are a few exceptions to the administrative remedies requirement. For instance, the requirement can be waived if the available administrative remedy is clearly inadequate.  Another exception may be available if the administrative procedures themselves would lead to an unreasonable delay, or if the alleged conduct clearly exceeded the scope of the agency’s authority. You should discuss your situation with your motorcycle accident attorney if you have any questions about the administrative process so that you can be sure to preserve your legal rights. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Am I Responsible If I Lend Someone My Car and They Have an Accident?

Liability for car accidents can be tricky in nearly any situation, but when the at-fault driver doesn’t own the vehicle that caused the accident, the question of liability can be that much more complicated. So, before you let someone borrow your car, be sure to understand how you might be held responsible for any injuries or damages they may cause. Our Joplin car accident lawyer can explain everything you need to know about potential liability. Proving a theory of liability The simple fact that one car hits another does not automatically determine who is liable. In some situations, one driver may try to shift some, if not all, of the blame on everyone else.  For example, there are defenses known as contributory negligence of assumption of risk, which may create a real issue of liability in your case.  If those defenses are raised, the resolution of your case may be further delayed.  It is important to have as much evidence as you can to support your theory of liability, including witness testimony, if possible. Understanding the principles of vicarious liability If you are a Joplin resident and you loan your car to someone, you could be held responsible for any damages or injuries they cause when using your vehicle. The theory that applies under Missouri law is referred to as “vicarious liability,” which essentially says that if you have given someone else permission to drive your car and they are at fault for a car accident, then you can be held liable for compensating the victim for any resulting damages or injuries. What about your car insurance? For many drivers, their auto insurance will cover someone that borrows their insured vehicle. However, there are situations where the insurance carrier may deny coverage for other reasons which means the financial responsibility will fall on you. Under some policies, negligent entrustment can be grounds for denying coverage. Be sure that you know what type of coverage your auto insurance policy provides before you allow just anyone to borrow your car. What does the term “negligent entrustment” mean? The legal term “negligent entrustment” refers to the situation where you can be held negligent for entrusting a dangerous instrument such as a vehicle to someone else when you have notice that they may be incompetent. For example, if you loan your vehicle to someone who you know has a less than stellar driving record, or to someone who is a young driver without sufficient experience, you could be held liable if that person has an accident while driving your vehicle. As our Joplin car accident lawyer can explain, simply allowing someone to borrow your car does not automatically make you responsible. Be careful if you pay someone to drive your vehicle Another consideration, particularly for business owners, is paying someone to drive a vehicle that you own. One of the most common examples is when you hire an employee to make deliveries for your business and they cause a car accident while working for you. In that situation, you would be held liable through vicarious liability, regardless of whether you knew that person was incompetent. However, if your employee uses the vehicle outside of the scope of their job duties and they cause an accident, then vicarious liability will most likely not apply. Instead, they would be held personally responsible for any injuries and damages they cause. This is yet another example why the facts are important, as is the advice of our Joplin car accident lawyer. Determining fault in a negligence lawsuit The fault determination in personal injury or car accident cases is not typically black and white.  In fact, in some cases, both drivers can share the fault in a car accident. Depending on the applicable laws, even victims can contribute to their own injuries. Historically, the “contributory negligence” theory applied when the victim may have helped to cause the accident or contributed to his own injuries.  Under the theory of contributory negligence, if it can be established that the victim contributed to the accident in any way, the victim may no longer be entitled to compensation for their injuries. If you have questions regarding negligent entrustment issues, car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Pedestrian Injuries on the Rise in College Crosswalk Car Accidents

It can be difficult to determine who is responsible for a car accident. That is something that a personal injury lawyer deals with often.  Every personal injury case is different in a variety of ways because there are many factors that must be considered in determining fault. When it comes to accidents involving pedestrians, the issues can be even more complicated.  As our Rogers car accident attorney understands, accidents that occur in crosswalks can be particularly serious. The dangers of crosswalks Crosswalks, the place where pedestrians and automobiles intersect, are an obvious danger zone. Despite the intention that crosswalks be “safe zones” for pedestrians, all too often they are the scene of tragic pedestrian accidents in Arkansas. Even when traveling at slow speeds, if a two-ton vehicle collides with a pedestrian the physical injuries are often very severe. Basically, because a person who is walking across a street has no protection, any contact with a moving vehicle will be serious, even fatal. If you or a loved one has been involved in such an accident, our Rogers car accident attorney can help you. Why crosswalk accidents are so common In some situations, pedestrians assume they are safe in a crosswalk and that all vehicles will yield the right of way. The reality is that the majority of the time, drivers will see someone standing at a crosswalk waiting to cross and will drive past them, expecting them to wait. That really defeats the purpose of the crosswalk because pedestrians must still cross at their own risk. However, many pedestrians expect drivers to comply with the rules of the road and yield the right-of-way to them so they walk across without hesitating. This is when accidents occur. In many cities, pedestrians walk as soon as they see the “walk” light change. Drivers, even subconsciously, feel that because they are in a bigger vehicle, the pedestrian will just have to wait for them to go by. Pedestrian accidents in Arkansas On the University of Arkansas campus alone, one report claims there have been at least 33 pedestrian accidents in the last five years. Three of those accidents occurred in 2017. Many people argue that the pedestrians are responsible because so many students on college campuses are “jaywalking.”  However, according to the same report, 25 of those accidents actually occurred in a crosswalk. Ultimately, this means that drivers are not complying with the rules of the road and performing their duty to protect innocent pedestrians from injury. Protections for pedestrians under Arkansas law Under Arkansas Code § 27-51-1202, pedestrians are to be granted the right-of-way in a crosswalk unless there is a “Do Not Walk” symbol lit or flashing. In other words, all motorists are required to yield to pedestrians in clearly painted crosswalks and implied crosswalks at intersections. Unfortunately, too many drivers completely ignore the laws pertaining to crosswalks. As a result, crosswalks have become an extremely dangerous situation, further complicated by speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence. Ultimately, each year there are dozens of pedestrian accidents in Arkansas that could be avoided if drivers followed traffic laws, slowed down, and watched for pedestrians in the crosswalks. What happens to the at-fault drivers if they cause injuries In most cases, drivers who violate the crosswalk laws in Arkansas are charged with traffic violations for failure to yield. This punishment alone, usually a small fine as opposed to a jail sentence, does very little to compensate a victim for his or her injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crosswalk accident in Arkansas, our Rogers car accident attorney can help you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. Steps to take if you are injured by a car in a crosswalk Anyone who has been injured by a negligent driver while crossing the street in compliance with the law, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries from the person who was at fault. You have many options, including settlements with the insurance company representing the at-fault driver or filing a civil personal injury lawsuit in court. Our Rogers car accident attorney can assist you and your family receive the monetary compensation that will help you cover physically and financially. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Texting May Have Caused Fatal Arkansas Car Accident

A fatal car accident in Arkansas, involving a Little Rock resident, is being investigated after leaving one person dead and a teenager seriously injured. The accident involved an 18-wheeler but, according to an accident reconstructionist, the driver of the other vehicle involved may have been at fault. Eyewitnesses suggest that the accident may have been the result of distracted driving. As any car accident lawyer understands, distracted driving represents a huge danger to all drivers on the roadway. The facts surrounding the fatal car accident in Arkansas On October 2, 2017, a Toyota Corolla driven by a resident of Little Rock crossed the median on Highway 65 in Harrison. The vehicle collided head-on with an 18-wheeler that was traveling in the opposite direction. The accident resulted in the instantaneous death of the driver of the Corolla. His 15-year-old passenger was seriously injured. According to reports, the man was transporting the juvenile to a correctional facility in another state, using his personal vehicle. Although the vehicle was equipped with a dashcam, investigators determined that the dashcam was not recording at the time of the accident. According to the juvenile passenger, the driver of the car was using his cell phone at some time prior to the crash. As such, investigators are considering that the accident may have been the result of distracted driving. Why texting and driving is so dangerous According to Distraction.gov, the federal government website dedicated to distracted driving reports that when a driver is texting, their eyes are off the road for, at a minimum, five seconds.  So much can happen in those five seconds and oftentimes does.  Consequently, each state has enacted its own laws, either limiting or prohibiting cell phone use while on the road. If you have questions about the laws car in your state, contact an accident lawyer. What is “distracted driving?” The legal definition of “distracted driving” is “[a]ny activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving.” There are actually three categories of activities that result in distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distractions occur when you take your eyes off the road, whereas manual distractions result when you take your hands off the wheel. Cognitive distractions are probably the hardest to avoid. As humans, distractions are inevitable and cannot be avoided altogether. But, eating while driving, results in all three categories of distracted driving; visual, manual and cognitive. How big of a problem is distracted driving? According to statistics published by the federal government, 3,154 people were killed, and more than 400,000 injured, in 2013 in car accidents involving distracted drivers.  Twenty-year-olds have the largest proportion of drivers who are reportedly distracted, 10% of whom are involved in fatal crashes with a distracted driver.  An experienced car accident lawyer can explain the dangers in more detail. Arkansas Cell phone laws Many state laws regarding cell phone use by drivers are based on the age of the driver.  In Arkansas, drivers age 18-20 are prohibited from using a hand-held cell phone while driving.  Drivers under age 18 are prohibited from using any type of cell phone while driving, even so-called hands-free.  All drivers in Arkansas are banned from texting while driving. Hands-free technology may not be the answer The jury is still out on whether hands-free technology is really any safer. An interesting study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah determined that cell phone use, in general, can result in impairment on a level similar to intoxication. In fact, researchers determined that in some ways talking on a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. Recovering for your injuries If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be able to recover damages for those injuries. If you can prove that the driver was negligent or distracted at the time the accident occurred, you will likely have a good case. If you noticed that the driver was eating or engaging in any other distracted driving behavior, such as texting, talking on the phone, applying makeup, etc., those particular details are extremely important and should be disclosed to your car accident lawyer. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Drowsy Driving is a Dangerous Form of Distracted Driving

One of the most dangerous issues on the roadways is drowsy driving. Drowsy driving means operating a motor vehicle while sleepy or fatigued. While medication could be a factor, often drowsy driving is usually a result of insufficient sleep. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that, in 2013, nearly 72,000 collisions were caused by drowsy driving. Of those collisions, there were 44,000 injuries and 800 fatalities. A car accident attorney is familiar with handling negligence claims that arise as the result of drowsy driving. Who is most susceptible to drowsy driving? There are certain categories of drivers who are most likely to drive drowsy because of their jobs or other circumstances.  For example, commercial drivers such as those who drive commercial buses, tow trucks and tractor-trailers and those who work the night shift or overtime hours, are often susceptible to drowsy driving because of their jobs. Another example is an individual who takes medication that causes drowsiness and others who may have untreated sleep disorders. Suggestions on how to avoid drowsy driving If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of drowsiness the wisest thing to do is pull your car over to a safe location immediately. If someone else can take over driving for you, that is the best option. Otherwise, you should take time to rest until you are fully alert. There are other safety precautions that can be used in order to protect yourself and others and to prevent a car accident, as a result of drowsy driving. Using technology to reduce drowsy driving accidents There have been various advances in the area of technology that can provide greater safety. New vehicles are begin equipped with technology that helps to reduce injuries caused by drowsy driving.  One of the more common forms of technology is the lane departure warning system. That particular system is meant to warn drivers using sound, vibration and a visual warning when the vehicle veers out of the lane. What is “distracted driving?” The legal definition of “distracted driving” is “[a]ny activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving.” There are actually three categories of activities that result in distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distractions occur when you take your eyes off the road, whereas manual distractions result when you take your hands off the wheel.  Cognitive distractions are probably the hardest to avoid.  As humans, distractions are inevitable and cannot be avoided altogether.  But, eating while driving, results in all three categories of distracted driving; visual, manual and cognitive. There are various types of distractions Texting while driving, or simply talking on your cell phone, are not the only types of distractions that put people at risk when driving.  If you are involved in an auto accident, you may not see the other driver with that cell phone in his hand.  You may have noticed a cheeseburger, instead.  This would be an important detail to recall, as well, if you look to recover damages for your injuries.  Many people do not consider eating a form of distracted driving because most of us do it.  But the truth is, eating is a distraction, too. How big of a problem is distracted driving? According to statistics published by the federal government, 3,154 people were killed, and more than 400,000 injured, in 2013 in car accidents involving distracted drivers.  Twenty-year-olds have the largest proportion of drivers who are reportedly distracted, 10% of whom are involved in fatal crashes with a distracted driver. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be able to recover damages for those injuries. If you can prove that the driver was negligent or distracted at the time the accident occurred, you will likely have a good case. If you noticed that the driver was eating or engaging in any other distracted driving behavior, such as texting, talking on the phone, applying makeup, etc., those particular details are extremely important and should be disclosed to your car accident attorney. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Joplin Car Accident Attorney Warns of Carjacking Scams

As if you don’t already have enough to worry about after being involved in a car accident, there are carjackers out there causing accidents simply to create the opportunity to steal your car. According to an article out of New York, this scam is becoming more and more common. Our Joplin car accident attorney wants to warn you about these carjacking scams and provide guidance on what to do and what not to do following a car accident. Two examples of recent carjacking scams In Queens, it was reported that a 74-year-old woman was driving her SUV when she was struck by a white sedan as she stopped at an intersection. When she got out of her car to exchange insurance information and check the damage to her vehicle, the male driver of the other vehicle distracted her while his female accomplice started to drive away and the male got into the victim’s vehicle and drove away. Everything was caught on video. A 73-year-old man in Astoria was trying to park his car when two people drove up to him and falsely accused him of damaging another vehicle. When one of the suspects got out of the car, the victim also got out of his car but left his keys in the ignition. The suspect then got into the victim’s car and drove away. Staged car accidents to look out for There are a few commonly recognized strategies that these criminals use to stage car accidents in order to steal the vehicles of unsuspected drivers. For instance, without warning, a car pulls in front of you and slams on their brakes causing you to rear-end them.  You may be trying to merge onto the freeway when a driver waves at you to go ahead of them. As you merge into their lane, the other driver deliberately crashes into you.  However, much like the rear-end situation, it looks like you caused the crash when merging. The same is true when driving in heavy traffic, you want to change lanes and someone waves you over and then hits you. Some staged accidents occur at intersections where you proceed into the intersection after stopping at the stop sign and someone T-bone’s you, claiming you ran the stop sign. Another situation that occurs in heavy traffic is when the car in front of you seems to be starting to move forward, but then suddenly stops, causing you to slam into them. Joplin car accident attorney warns that certain are at higher risk The reality is that scammers like these will look for the easiest targets. You should be aware that certain types of people will inherently be at a higher risk of being scammed than others. For example, those you drive luxury cars of higher value will be obvious targets. Also, women and seniors are more often chosen as prey because criminals believe they are more easily intimidated.  Certainly, driving alone makes you a more likely target as well. What can you do to protect yourself? Whenever you are involved in one of the types of accidents described above, and especially if there are two people in the other car, you should be more cautious. If you stop for an accident and you are alone. Stay in your vehicle and let the other driver know you are calling 911. Oftentimes this will deter them from trying to carjack you. If you have to get out of the car, be sure to take your keys with you and even lock the door as you exit. That will make it more difficult for them to drive off with your vehicle. Make note of the other vehicle’s license plate as soon as you can, just in case. Also, beware of insurance fraud schemes Sometimes these staged accidents are an attempt at an insurance scam as opposed to a carjacking. Criminals stage accidents to look like they are the other person’s fault so they can make an insurance claim, especially for physical injuries. One common sign that this may be the case is when the collision is rather minor, but the other person is claiming to be in serious pain. The key here, and even in legitimate accidents, is not to say too much at the scene. Whether it’s admitting liability in some way or saying the accident was not your fault, it is always a bad idea to say anything that relates to liability.  The best advice is to say as little as possible until you have spoken to a Joplin car accident attorney. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

What are the Benefits of Expert Testimony in a Car Accident Case?

Every car accident attorney in Joplin recognizes that these types of legal cases can be complicated. Nevertheless, car accident victims are entitled to compensation for their injuries and property damage. Because these cases usually require substantial litigation, and therefore substantial expense, it is wise to have a qualified and experienced car accident attorney in Joplin to assess your claim. Prior assessment can help you determine the potential strengths and weaknesses of your case before you start the litigation process. Attorneys also know when it is best to get an expert witness involved. Experts can help to prove who was at fault The first step in proving a car accident claim is establishing who was at fault, or in some cases, that you were less at fault than the other driver. Fault is not always obvious in every case, either. In situations where that is the case, both sides may call an expert witness to testify regarding who was at fault. An expert witness will analyze the accident and determine, based on the evidence, who or what caused the accident. Their expert findings are based on the evidence, the facts in the case, and their expert opinions.  There are different types of experts.  Some may also provide their opinions as to physical injuries and financial damages. Some of the common types of experts used in car accident cases include doctors, economists, engineers, and accident re-constructionists. You must prove that your injuries were caused by the car accident Despite the basic fact that you were injured, your car accident attorney in Joplin will need to be able to establish that your injuries were actually caused by the car accident. This can be a complicated issue if you have a related pre-existing injury. Some clients may not realize that, even if fault can be proven, it is still necessary to prove your injuries and how they were caused. What does the term “damages” refer to? In personal injury cases, the term “damages” refers to the monetary compensation to which an injured victim may be entitled. In order to prove the extent of your injuries, an expert witness may be necessary. Most commonly, a medical expert can be used to explain the treatment required for those injuries. That includes past, present and future treatment. A medical expert can also explain the less obvious pain and suffering that a victim is likely to endure. Settling a personal injury claim If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, there are basically two ways to receive compensation for that injury. You can either settle the case out of court or obtain a judgment from the court. Although a jury verdict in a civil lawsuit would likely result in a larger recovery, jury verdicts are never guaranteed. Indeed, most personal injury cases settle before trial. When does settlement usually occur? Generally speaking, settlement will occur when either the insurance carrier or the defendant makes an offer of payment before liability has been proven. The offer of settlement can occur before the lawsuit is filed. It can also be made after the lawsuit has been filed, but before the case goes to trial. A settlement can occur virtually at any point before a jury verdict, or before the court enters an order dismissing the case. In some cases, a settlement can be reached while the jury is deliberating. Companies often want to keep the cases confidential Keeping a case out of the public eye can be especially important for larger companies that have a reputation to protect. For example, if a company has produced a defective product that has only injured a few people, the company will likely opt for a quiet out-of-court settlement. That way they can avoid the inevitable publicity of a trial. When a settlement agreement is drafted, the company will insist on terms that include a requirement of confidentiality. What happens once a settlement is reached? If you reach a settlement at any point, part of the terms of the settlement will be that you give up your right to pursue all potential claims against that defendant, arising out of the accident or incident. This is accomplished by signing a full release with regard to liability. For instance, in a car accident case, the auto insurance carrier might offer you $25,000 to settle the case. In order to actually receive that $25,000, you must agree to either not sue that defendant for the car accident, or to dismiss any lawsuit that is already pending regarding the car accident. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Update on Missouri’s “No Pay, No Play” Insurance Law

Many states now impose serious penalties on drivers who do not have car insurance, particularly when those people are involved in a car accident. Some states, though, have taken further steps by passing so-called “no pay, no play” laws which prohibit uninsured motorists from receiving any compensation for non-economic damages, even if they were not at fault. Missouri is one of those states and our Joplin car accident attorney will explain the latest update on that law. What is the theory behind these “no pay, no play” laws? These “no pay, no play” laws are based on the premise that uninsured motorists would not be able to compensate other drivers if they caused an accident, so their own recovery should be limited as well. There are currently 11 states that have enacted some version of this law.  Missouri has one but Arkansas does not. This year, however, there has been a Missouri state court decision that may lead to the law being held unconstitutional. The Missouri state court case of Gilmore v. Page Under Missouri statute § 303.390, uninsured motorists waive their right to recover for noneconomic loss against an insured motorist following a car accident, even when the insured driver may be at fault.  That means they forfeit any recovery for money in addition to medical bills and lost wages. Essentially, this law takes away a citizen’s constitutional right to a jury trial where a jury can determine the amount of damages you may have suffered.In the case of Gilmore v. Page, the trial court found that a defendant’s use of this law as an affirmative defense to personal injury claims brought by another driver was improper and the state itself was unconstitutional. The basis for this decision is that the Missouri constitution, signed in 1820, allowed for recovery of noneconomic damages without limitation. So, by denying this right, the law was an unconstitutional infringement on the right to trial by jury. Now, this decision will likely be appealed, so it will be up to the Missouri Court of appeals and Missouri Supreme Court to uphold the decision. What happens if the at-fault driver has no insurance in Missouri? When you are involved in an auto accident, you would typically expect the other driver to be insured just as you are.  The average Missouri resident is not prepared for the unexpected costs of vehicle repairs following an accident, especially if their car is totaled.  Not to mention medical bills incurred as a result of physical injuries.  But what can you do if the other driver has no insurance? What if they have liability insurance, but the coverage is insufficient to cover your injuries.  Missouri, like most states, has laws that require uninsured motorist coverage in each liability policy. What is uninsured motorist coverage? Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) provides a minimum level of recovery for individuals injured by an uninsured motorist. Uninsured motorist coverage is different from liability insurance, in that it is more like bodily injury insurance coverage.  Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is similar to uninsured motorist coverage.  Its purpose is to provide additional coverage in the event the at-fault driver has insufficient coverage.  The law requires that consumers in Missouri be given the option of purchasing underinsured motorist coverage.  However, it is not required. Missouri is an “at fault” state When a state is considered an “at-fault” state, with regard to auto insurance, it means the driver who is responsible for the accident is the person financially responsible for the injuries and property damage that result.  Because Missouri is an “at fault” state, all drivers in Missouri are required to carry auto insurance. How to file a claim If you are injured in an auto accident in Missouri, you basically have three options.  You can file a claim with your own auto insurance carrier.  Your carrier will then seek reimbursement from the at fault driver’s insurance carrier.  If you are a passenger in someone else’s car, you can still file a claim with your own auto insurance carrier.  The second option is to file a claim with the at fault driver’s insurance carrier.  The last option is to file a personal injury lawsuit. Minimum coverage requirements in Missouri In Missouri, every driver is required to obtain auto insurance before they can legally drive their vehicle or even register the vehicle with the state.  Out-of-state drivers must also carry at least the minimum coverage amounts in order to legally drive in Missouri.  The minimum coverage amounts are as follows: $25,000 per person for bodily injuries suffered in an accident $50,000 per accident for bodily injuries, when more than one person is hurt, and $10,000 per accident for property damage If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Is Police Testimony Regarding Fault Admissible in Court?

In order to recover after a car accident, your Joplin car accident attorney will tell you that proving fault is paramount. Liability cannot be placed on anyone until it is determined who caused the accident or put another way, whose negligence lead to your injuries.  The person who is determined to be at fault is the person responsible for reimbursing the victim for their damages.  One issue that may arise in a car accident case is whether the testimony of the police officer who arrived at the scene can be used in court to prove fault. This post will discuss a case that dealt with that very issue. Motorcycle versus unidentified vehicle In the case of Richey v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Billy Richey was traveling on his motorcycle on a rural stretch of road when, according to him, he entered a bend in the highway and an unknown driver swerved into his lane. To avoid the collision Richey left the road and crashed. A sheriff deputy found Richey lying unconscious on the roadway. Because there didn’t appear to be another driver involved, Richey was charged with careless and imprudent driving, a misdemeanor, because he struck a ditch and endangered the property of another.  He was also charged with having an improper license. Phantom vehicle claim involving police testimony of fault Richey claimed there was another vehicle involved and it was that vehicle that caused him to leave the road and damage the property of another.  However, because the vehicle allegedly left the scene and could not be identified, it was crucial for Richey to provide proof that another vehicle was actually involved. Unfortunate for him, the Missouri State Highway Patrol who investigate at the scene testified that he found no evidence of another vehicle. The issue became whether the officer’s testimony was admissible at trial that, in his opinion, the accident was caused by the inattention of Richey. Richey appealed the decision to admit the officer’s testimony The trial court allowed the officer’s testimony at trial and the jury returned a verdict against Richey.  He appealed the decision, specifically objecting to the admission of the testimony. The appellate court agreed with Richey, finding that the officer’s testimony was based only on his opinions and conclusions about what happened, not simply what he observed at the scene. Essentially, the officer did not personally witness the accident so he could not offer factual testimony regarding fault. Investigating officer is not a necessary expert In this case, the officer only came to the scene after the accident, so his testimony was only based on his opinions regarding fault. Only experts are allowed to offer opinion evidence in court. In jury cases, testimony from an expert is only necessary when there is an issue that the jurors would be incapable of understanding or drawing proper conclusions without the assistance of an expert on that issue. The court determined that a jury, typically comprising adult drivers, would be able to reach its own conclusions regarding fault in an accident case. As a result, the appellate court in Richey’s case found that the officer’s opinion testimony was inadmissible and would most likely be given undue weight, improperly influencing the jury’s decision on the issue of liability. Why does determining fault matter so much? The issue of fault is the most important aspect of a lawsuit because without knowing who the party is you should sue, you cannot recover.  If you do not determine who that person or entity is, that party could escape financial liability for the accident. If more than one party is accused of liability, determining who is at fault requires identifying the levels of fault. In other words, each party will only be responsible for the amount of the damages that can be attributed to his or her actions. How to go about proving fault Proving fault in the legal context discovering and offering evidence.  The necessary evidence typically includes photos of the accident scene and injuries, eyewitness testimony and police reports. Depending on the applicable legal standard in your state, fault can be established either proven beyond any reasonable doubt or through clear and convincing evidence.  Either way, the standard of proof is relatively low as the allegations of fault do not have to be indisputable. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Study Shows Legalized Marijuana May Have Doubled Number of Fatal Accidents

According to research data, the sale of legal marijuana has increased to $6.6 billion in 2016. That includes $4.7 billion in the sale of medical marijuana and $1.9 billion for recreational marijuana. It is predicted that, by 2025, sales will exceed $24 billion.  Five years ago, the sale of recreational marijuana was not legal anywhere in the United States. That is no longer the case. Our Joplin accident attorneys will discuss what that means for smoking and driving or DUI accidents. The current state of legalized marijuana laws in the country Medical marijuana has been legalized in 29 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. In 2014, recreational marijuana (not prescribed by a physician) was legalized in Colorado and Washington. Oregon passed a similar law in 2015 and Alaska followed suit in 2016. Only residents age 21 or older can buy the drug. In eight states and Washington, D.C. people who are at least 21 can possess and use marijuana recreationally. Regardless of these new laws, it is still illegal to transport marijuana across state lines. This is true even between two states sharing a border, where both states have legalized marijuana. That is because federal law prohibits it. The prohibition includes not only driving across state lines but also flying or mailing marijuana. It also remains illegal to smoke and drive, just as it is to drink and drive. Fatal crashes involving marijuana impairment have doubled in a legal state There was a recent study conducted in one state that has legalized marijuana. The study showed that the number of fatal car accidents involving marijuana impairment nearly doubled.  The study suggests that the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana, as well as making possession of marijuana legal, has had a negative effect on road safety. The need for a better drug impairment test The American Automobile Association (AAA) has expressed concern that in light of the increased number of deaths related to driving while impaired by marijuana, the test is currently being used to detect impairment appears to be ineffective. Although in states where the use of marijuana has been legalized, police officers impose a drug test to identify impairment, AAA believes the test in ineffective. The drug test being administered analyzes the blood for TCH content, the chemical in marijuana that causes impairment.  Yet, it appears the threshold being applied may be arbitrary, providing an inaccurate reading of the level of impairment.  The main reason is that TCH remains in an individual’s blood for several days. Also, the drug test results are not immediate. How does marijuana cause impairment? Essentially, marijuana affects brain function by slowing reaction time, limiting motor function, and impairing judgment. An individual operating under the influence of marijuana will have difficulty concentrating and completing tasks. Because driving is a task that requires absolute concentration, complete attention and alertness, driving under the influence of marijuana obviously compromises safety. How to determine a threshold for impaired driving According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is a direct link between the concentration of TCH in the blood and how impaired a driver is when operating their vehicle. Yet, the chemical TCH affects people differently, which makes setting a threshold more difficult when it comes to driving offenses. One recommendation from AAA is to train law enforcement to use a method that combines detecting impairment along with the use of a blood test, as opposed to simply imposing a threshold. Laws regarding marijuana in the state of Missouri Missouri is one of several states where both the possession and use of marijuana is still illegal.  On the other hand, Missouri has lowered the penalties for criminal charges for marijuana possession this year. Specifically, possession of less than 10gms of marijuana will generally not result in jail time. Drunk driving laws in Missouri A first conviction for DUI or DWI in Missouri can lead to incarceration, fines, and administrative penalties. Underage drivers and drivers with commercial driver’s licenses may be subject to different penalties. Administrative Penalties in Missouri Someone convicted of a first DUI or DWI offense in Missouri will likely have their driver’s license suspended for 30 days, and be subject to another 60-day restricted suspension.  Under the implied consent laws in Missouri, if a driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test there will be an automatic license revocation for one year. As in Arkansas, the court can order the use of an ignition interlock device upon reinstatement of a driver’s license. Criminal Penalties in Missouri A first offense DUI in Missouri does not result in a mandatory jail sentence.  However, the court still has the discretion to order incarceration of up to six (6) months. The fines associated with a first offense DUI in Missouri cannot exceed $500.  This amount does not include the costs associated with license reinstatement, payment of other surcharges and court fees, or the costs incurred during completion of a jail sentence. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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